Adding up the facts: Michigan State University’s outstanding value

02-27-2014

There’s a narrative that’s been developing about higher education based on anecdotes, misperceptions, and lack of information rather than actual data. In this narrative, college and university spending is out of control. Students graduate with massive debt, and the value of their degrees is questionable. Many even believe state funding for higher education has increased over the last decade.

I can’t speak for every university, but I can certainly speak for Michigan State. And that story just isn’t true.

Fact: Michigan has disinvested in higher education for more than a decade, cutting more than $330 million from public universities in the past 12 years. Today, only 22 percent of MSU’s operating costs are covered by state appropriations, compared to 75 percent in 2001.

Fact: When Governor Rick Snyder took office four years ago, he cut higher education funding 15 percent with the promise that once Michigan was back on track funding would be restored. I am happy to report that this year’s Governor’s budget proposal begins to restore some of that funding.

Fact: At MSU, we reduced spending by $110 million, including $28 million in health care coverage savings and $32 million in forgone wage increases. We streamlined our academic programs, modifying or eliminating 40 programs, and we eliminated post-retirement health care for new employees. In fact, efficiency measures go way back. MSU adopted a defined contribution retirement system back in 1973. So while most state and municipal governments are struggling to pay their legacy retirement costs, our legacy cost is less than $7 million, far less than the hundreds of millions owed by the State and municipalities.

On February 13, I made my annual presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. During my testimony, I applauded Governor Snyder’s fiscal year 2015 budget recommendation to increase higher education funding by 6.1 percent. We made the sacrifices and Governor Snyder is keeping his promise by making higher education a priority in Michigan again. Now it’s time for the legislature to act in support of our students and families and the future vitality of our state.

During my testimony, I applauded Governor Snyder’s fiscal year 2015 budget recommendation to increase higher education funding by 6.1 percent. We made the sacrifices and Governor Snyder is keeping his promise by making higher education a priority in Michigan again. Now it’s time for the legislature to act in support of our students and families and the future vitality of our state.

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